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cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Ponniyin Selvan I (2022)

So you all know what an FRS is right? Right? 

-101: Narration, even if it is by Kamal Haasan. 

Gather around people, as Tamil Nadu’s most visionary director takes the narration route to set things up. For an entire length of film. 

So exciting. Yay!

The comet’s tail tells a deadly tale

At the beginning we are introduced to the Cholas before the glory days. The elder son is fighting in the north, the younger son is fighting in the south and the king is bedridden in Thanjavur and a comet appears bringing with it bad news and assassins. 

By the end of PS 1 the set -up still remains, the elder son is still fighting in the north, the younger son is still in the south and the king is still bedridden. 

Hi to all screenplay writers and arc trackers. Technically nothing happens in this movie, I mean technically. Should have just released part two after Kamal’s voice over.

-34: Repetition 

The two sons and one father situation gets repeated by every other character in the movie to make us care for them, which makes us feel that the Kamal Haasan voiced intro would have been an afterthought and something that they could have very well avoided. 

Vandiyathevan also keeps saying who he is to every character he meets.

+45: As the smoke clears, Vikram walks into the frame- one of the few dreamlike moments in PS, but nobody really told us that he was reprising his role from Ravanan. 

Should we reduce points for this? 

Honestly having Vikram enact middle age angst and longing is one of the better creative decisions in PS- hope he wins a National Award. 

-50: Unnecessary battle which is neither cinematic nor makes us care about our heroes is unnecessary. Battle also acts as an intro spot for two other characters. 

-21: Rashtrakootas are not going to like this film. 

-2PiR: When two people are engaged in conversation, the camera starts to move in a circular manner – as though Mani sir is done with shooting two people talking, giving new meaning to the phrase going in circles. 

This again repeats with other characters as well, by now some critic would have written a 3000 word article about the inner meanings of said circling. 

<overheard but unverified excerpts from PS1 sets> 

“No no, my fans will expect something cinematic, just go around them and don’t keep still Ravi. Go Ravi go!”

<overheard but unverified excerpts from PS1 sets>

-20: Poor judgment on the part of Aditha Karikalan as he hands an important task to Vandiyathevan, who himself says, he does not know the way around Chola country, in a time when Google maps did not exist. 

-51: JeMo, the dialogue writer tries to make a pun joke with the word Madhusudhanan, nobody in the audience caught it, but we did hence the negative. 

+201: Experience Happy Chola country in this song where every village along the way not only knows the songs composed by ARR but also the dance steps. 

Of course, there is a distinct lack of Tamil Nadu-ness in the proceedings, which Mani-philes would praise as not only intentional but also international. Needless to say that there is very little about the people of time and the customs.

Guess only the best among us become Mani-philes. We are just FRS writers, so no such pressure for us. 

204: Every dialogue a question-itis 

Who is that on that boat?

Where are you going? 

Won’t you carry my message? 

How great Tanjore looks? 

Umm that’s actually Jaipur, or Jodhpur or some such pur (loop back to the biggest movie about the biggest Tail empire has very little Tamilness in it)

Adapting a thousand page epic did not give the screen writers even one inspiration to write inspiring dialogue. Someone told us that this was a passion project. Considering this is Madras Talkies, maybe even the passion was subtle.

-61: Vandiyathevan abandons his horse Semba, apdiye after trying to sell us that it was his most prized relationship

That should tell us a lot about character development in Maniyin Selvan. 

< FRS will continue immediately after this short non commercial rant on character development>

FRS writers are no fools, they usually spend their weekends watching Glitz, Woods, and Galatta videos of the movie that they are asked to rate- this however comes at great cost to their normal lives- but it is only in these videos they discovered from a Jeyamohan interview that Ponniyin Selvan could be reduced to Vandiyathevan moving from one place to another. 

While yes technically yes, everything is technically correct but we must be able to feel something about the characters before we go along with them from one place to another. Shouldn’t we?

PS is like most epics filled with journeys , but then you have to love the hobbit and his fellowship for you to even reach Bree. 

But here, a result of superstar casting, none of the characters do come alive. And any impression we made were based on pre-existing notions about the ability of the artists themselves- Karthi is case in point. 

PS needed unknown casting where Vandiyathevan’s resourcefulness, Arulmozhi’s resoluteness and Nandini’s tempting nature comes to foreground. 

Here it’s just Karthi, Jayam Ravi and Aishwarya Rai who fill the screen leaving enough space for characters. 

<FRS continues>

-232: Pandians are not going to like this movie. 

They shouldn’t, their discreet assassins are shown here as tactless who attack in broad daylight. 

Success rate of Pandian assassins should be called into question, if this is how they plan to kill the princes then Pandians must recalibrate their strategy for the next movie- they should probably work with Accenture. 

Until then Pandian Abathudhavis sleeps with the fishes. (pun intended)

-100: To us for making a Pandian meen kodi fish bilingual pun. 

+85: Maniratnam decided to repurpose his own content from Nayakan – Nila Adhu Vanathy chi Vanathu mele feat. Poonkuzhali and just like that we are in Pattaya, chi, we mean Sri Lanka. 

-1917: Again needless war based introduction to another hero , we don’t know who Arunmozhi Varman is and immediately we are asked to partake in his sudden victory.

There was a brilliant intro to Arun (in the books) which is again there in the movie but by the team we know who Arun is and the scene loses its importance. 

Seems as though Mani had to forgo all his creative freedom to push two battle scenes, just for scale and for the intro of his leads. 

Again we spend our weekends watching glitz and woods videos where the director explicitly states that the idea was to keep things grounded and not blow up the scale. 

Realistic was the word, oh we love that word. 

We do appreciate closed chamber drama like the average next PVR popcorn popping person person, but the movie never makes up its mind whether it wants to be an epic or just a pic. 

The supposed big moments don’t hit the high notes and the small quieter moments are hardly your “savor-this-moment-so-that-it-ultimately-lives-on -as-whatsapp-love-status – at arms length from every teen in search of expression“.

Take a break as we reduce more points for the song and dance in this movie. 

72: All songs are unnecessary and are expertly placed at times when you can just close your eyes, take deep breaths and think about existence and stuff. 

Maybe you can also use the break time to think about the average Chola fighter who has not to not only fight for his blood thirsty emo teen now turning 40 Aditha, but also has to learn steps from Brinda master so that he can dance in some Rastrakuta fort to Chola Chola?

Man being a Cholan soldier, tough. 

300: When we imagined about the average Chola soldier, our imagination also leapt from the screen and went into the books and wondered what team Mani did with the 300 songs that Kalki had in the text?

Ah but never mind, you get a glimpse of acclaimed dancer Shobana’s dance drama here pushed as Ratchasa Mamane which no one expected. 

Since we all got things we never expected, the only way to acclaim this movie is to say that Team Mani has successfully subverted audience expectations. 

+101: Something something happens and everybody talks the plot so that we end up in a somewhat thrilling climatic sequence on a burning ship. 

Again, Pandian assassins are not going to like this film. They might not like the sequel too.

And now for our new segment called, readers write-in

Gentlereader2002 asks: Hey FRS writers, why are you so full of vanmam (hate), your vanmam spills from the screen onto my laptop keyboard and every time I need to get myself Colin’s cleaners to clean the system of vanmam.

Don’t you have anything good to say about the movie? Come on now, it grossed over 500 crores le? 

Thank you gentlereader2002, yes it is true that in the FRS writers room hate is not a bad word, it is what connects us. 

Funnily we try and convert this vanmam into posts – it is the only way we can cleanse vanmam from our systems. Maybe FRS is our internal Colin’s cleaners. 

To answer your second question, of course if you look hard enough, you can find goodness even in the most dullest things, like if Kollywood spends time in reading the FRS for a long time they might also have some point worth taking home. And like that we found that within the short time given, it was actually Sarath Kumar who brought a sense of majesty to the proceedings, we also liked Vikram’s portrayal – so like the rest is there for us to make fun.

Vanman can be a force for the good.

DonChera from Puliyoor writes: You write so disparagingly about the Cholas and you are so sentimental about Pandian abathudhavis, so you must be a secret Pandian, am I right? 

Us: We also rued the fact that Ponniyin Selvan’s big moments were not big like RRR or Baahubali, does that make us English speaking spies of the Vijayanagara empire? 

Guess we will know when Maniyin Selvan is back next year.

Team FRS

Subam.

3 replies on “FRS: Ponniyin Selvan I (2022)”

-2022: Rahman infuses monkey chants of Thailand, elements of contemporary Buddhist hymns from Tibet and neoclassical sounds from synthesisers unearthed from Mayan remains to build this colossal, international soundtrack that sounds nothing like it belong in the Chola era.

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